Shkodër, Northern Albania

Image  The high mountains of northern Albania.

As a PhD Candidate in anthropology, I am currently in the data collection phase of my graduate career. Broadly speaking, I am interested in how various components of a landscape “fit together” and the conditions through which landscape use changes over time. At a more refined level, I am investigating how continuities and/or changes in social relationships are reflected in (and by) the incorporation of mortuary landscapes into living communities, both past and present.

In the 1980’s and early 90’s (i.e. under Communism), Albanian archaeologists (Aristotel Koka and Bep Jubani) excavated 11 prehistoric burial mounds. As a result of their efforts, we have a great deal of information regarding these burial contexts; unfortunately, however, absolute dates were not obtained and a reliance on culture-types still persists. To this end, I am in Albania excavating a prehistoric burial mound and, ultimately, my goals are several-fold: 1) obtain absolute dates for this mound; 2) better understand the construction sequence of this mound; 3) figure out how burial mound fit into the larger prehistoric landscape. I will return to Albania once more to carry out ethnographic fieldwork with the current inhabitants of the region in which I work, where I will study the role that current mortuary tradition has on community dynamics.

I arrived in Tirana, Albania on May 1st, along with my graduate school buddy, Amy Michael. We rented our vehicle, stocked up on supplies, picked up Anisa Mara and Zhaneta Gjyshja, graduate students (and fantastic archaeologists!) at the University of Tirana, and headed north to Shkodër. We spent the first few days doing some reconnaissance work while trying to figure out the best place to dig. We chose Mound 88 and have been busy excavating ever since.

Image Mound 88, Day 1

Image Mound 88, Day 3

Thus far, we’ve been able to identify the prehistoric portion of the mound (i.e. we’ve excavated beyond all of the modern surface stuff) and we are finding older things the deeper we go. We’ve uncovered what we think is the prehistoric floor and, if this is in fact a burial mound, then we should come down on burials sometime in the next few days. Stay tuned for more updates from the field!

Image Special find, metal handle

Image What lunch in the field sometimes looks like.

Image Attending a local music concert; we are now in a music video.

Sylvia Deskaj

PhD Candidate, Michigan State University

Cobb Institute of Archaeology, Archaeologist                                                                                                                                   AMEC, Lecturer

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